A lot of moms with young children find themselves getting burnt out. It’s happening all the time. They’re irritable, short tempered, and can’t figure out why other moms seem to have it together so well. First off, they most likely don’t have it all together. Second, they’re most likely filling their own cup before filling everyone else’s. Or in other words they practice self-care.
Moms need to take care of themselves before they can, successfully, take care of their children. If children never see their parents taking the time to say “I’ve had enough I need a time out” then how will they learn to do the same? We need to take the time, even small amounts of time, to focus on just us. On a regular basis!
When on an airplane, the flight attendant goes over safety procedures and emphasizes that you put your oxygen mask on before assisting your children. You can’t protect your kids if your dead and it’s hard to be a good mom when your body is constantly in overdrive with no fuel. Take care of yourself for the sake of your children, and YOU. Take a time out. Eat healthy. Exercise. Release the tension.
Self-care involves different areas:
- Getting yourself moving
- Eating Healthy –many moms claim to be just too busy to eat.
- Having me/ alone time
Move Your Body
Exercise is extremely important for your body and mind. According to WebMD “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.”
It can be really hard to fit a full 60 min workout into your day when you’re a busy mom, but there are other ways. You could do multiple short workouts throughout the day. You could kill two birds with one stone and exercise with your children. Go for a walk, bike ride, or swim. If you have tired kids there is a good chance there will be less fighting, and a better night’s sleep, thus giving you a break and time to recharge. Here is a post with lots of ideas on how to Exercise With Children.
I never understood how moms can say they are in the kitchen all day preparing meals for their kids but they haven’t eaten anything. I personally fall apart after not eating for a couple hours. They claim to only get a couple bites of food here and there, mostly from their children’s food, or packaged snacks. They say they don’t have time or they forgot to eat. But the truth is they are choosing to not make themselves a priority.
I try to feed my son as healthy as I can, as that is what I am trying to do for myself as well. When I am making his food I also make my own. If it is a really busy day then we eat the same thing for lunch. If he’s having a sandwich and some apples with peanut butter, I make myself a sandwich, usually a different kind, and eat apples with peanut butter. But most days I make myself a veggie wrap. I precut a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week and then it saves some time when I’m trying to do a million things and make myself lunch. I can also hold the wrap in one hand if I absolutely need to.
In the mornings I don’t feel like eating but I can get hangry (hungry-angry), if I were to skip it, so I have a meal replacement/ protein shake. I especially love the chocolate flavoured ones. It’s like having chocolate milk for breakfast. They have so many vitamins and minerals that I can feel confident that I’m still getting my daily nutrients to keep me going until lunch time. And then we all sit and eat dinner as a family, most days.
How do you make the time to make yourself a meal?
Eat what they eat.
Lots of kids enjoy “snack plates” or a variety of finger food that consists of fruits, veggies, cheese, crackers, ham, pickles, dried fruits, nuts, yogurt etc. Just make a bigger portion for yourself.
Make your food while they eat theirs
Make their lunch and then while they are eating make your own. Save any clean up until after you have eaten or later in the day. Right now my son still naps so if I’m running behind I will make my lunch while he eats his and then once he has gone down for a nap I eat my lunch, in peace. It’s only a couple minutes before I get back to house chores, working, or yard work. But its a couple minutes for just me.
Make a smoothie
Smoothies are quick, simple, healthy for you and the kids, and easy to take with you. Just throw some frozen fruit into a blender; we like to add spinach or avocado to our smoothies to get extra veggies. It doesn’t change the taste, only the colour. We add in kefir to get a probiotic boost for healthy gut bacteria. Sometimes we add Greek yogurt, which covers your dairy portion, as well as added protein. And the flavour combinations are endless.
Prep on the weekend
I know some moms who prep theirs and their kid’s lunches for the week. All food is cut up and put into containers so there is no excuse to not eat lunch. It’s also beneficial for your child’s eating habits if they see you eating the healthy foods you are asking them to eat. Monkey see monkey do.
I don’t pre-make our lunches but I do precut veggies. They get used for my lunch or for my son’s snacks. I also sometimes make yogurt cups for the next day. Throw some frozen berries into the bottom of a mason jar, yogurt on top and then into the fridge. When you’re ready to eat it give it a mix, and add some granola if you like.
Eat leftovers. If you don’t often have leftovers in the fridge start making double the recipe and put the other half into the freezer in portion sized containers. Crockpots are excellent for easy meal planning.
What happens when you don’t eat enough?
When you don’t give your body enough to eat you can experience extreme fatigue and burnout. You can end up with weight issues, either gaining or losing too much weight from sporadic eating. When we eat on a consistent basis it tells our bodies that there is always more food coming and not to worry. When we eat sporadically our bodies store the fat because it doesn’t know when it will get more. Not eating can also cause hormonal problems, infertility, and low breastmilk supply.
How are you supposed to teach your children about healthy eating habits if they never see you eat? How are you supposed to keep up with them if you aren’t putting enough fuel into your body?
Everyone needs a little ‘Me’ time. Quite often time for ourselves gets pushed aside as we don’t want to feel selfish for putting other things on the back burner while we have a mental health break. But this is not healthy at all. ‘Me’ time doesn’t necessarily mean to do things by yourself but instead do something you really enjoy. For some that does mean they do something alone, for others it could be going for a date night, or taking a yoga class with a friend. It’s taking a break from the things in your life that cause stress and anxiety and focusing on something positive that brings you joy.
If you’re struggling to fit in some ‘Me’ time try taking just 10 minutes a day by yourself to think (no electronics) and do nothing. If you can’t just sit and do nothing go for a walk. When our children see us take some time for ourselves it shows them that being alone is a healthy thing to do. Some studies have shown that children who learn to spend time by themselves are better behaved than children who do not spend any time alone.
Some other ways of including ‘Me’ time into your life:
- Unplug from technology
- Create something
- Take yourself out for a meal
- Take a nap
- Call a friend
- Read a book
- Have a grown up play date
- Call a babysitter and just get out of the house ALONE
- Indulge in a hobby
- Go to a movie
- Paint your nails or go for a manicure/ pedicure
- Start taking a weekly class
- Adult colouring books
- Upgrade your 5 min shower time to a 30 min bubble bath with relaxing music
- Treat yourself to a favourite snack and be sure to enjoy every last bite.
Check out this post on different ways moms can relax and destress
It’s All About You
In the end, it is all about you. If you do not take care of yourself then how can you take care of your children. If you think you don’t have the time then make the time. Tell your partner that you’re doing the grocery shopping by yourself. Or have someone come and look after the kids while you take an hour or two to go buy your groceries.
Some people find grocery shopping stressful, but I look forward to it every Sunday. I get into my car, turn on my favourite playlist of road trip songs and go grocery shopping all by myself. It takes me 20 min to drive to the stores so I turn up the music and sing my little heart out all the way there and back. While I’m there I get to have short conversations with the people I come across and these conversations have nothing to do with why farts stink, or how come the sky has clouds sometimes but not all the time, or why its important to wash your hands after wiping your bum. It’s the little things that I look forward to. Some weeks that little outing isn’t quite enough but it’s a start.
I make a point of telling my husband when its been a really rough day and I need 15 min to myself before I start making dinner, or do anything else, once he gets home. Those are the days that he will take our son either for a walk down to the mailbox or go and visit his parents for an hour. I take that 15 min to sit on the deck (if it’s not raining) and have a moment to myself before continuing with the never ending list of things that need to get done.
It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to need a break from your children. It is okay to not be okay. What is not okay is when you ignore the fact that you’re feeling burnt out and don’t ask for help, or actively try to fix the problem.